"Loon, Serpentine" - Itulu Itidluie, Cape Dorset.
Inuit art refers to artwork produced by Inuit, that is, the people of the Arctic also known as Eskimos, a term that may be deemed offensive outside Alaska. Historically their preferred medium was ivory, but since the establishment of southern markets for Inuit art in 1945, prints and figurative works carved in relatively soft stone such as soapstone, serpentinite, or argillite have also become popular.
All of the Inuit utensils, tools and weapons were made by hand from natural materials: stone, bone, ivory, antler, and animal hides. Nomadic people could take very little else with them besides the tools of their daily living; non-utilitarian objects were also carved in miniature so that they could be carried around or worn, such as delicate earrings, dance masks, amulets, fetish figures, and intricate combs and figures which were used to tell legends and objectify their mythology and oral history.
As the Inuit settled into communities in the late 1940s, their carvings became larger, and the requests to produce them as artwork increased. The Government of Canada recognized the potential economic benefit of commercial art to the isolated Arctic communities, and encouraged the development and promotion of Inuit sculpture. This encouragement was initially heavy-handed, as is most clearly shown by the pamphlet "Eskimo Handicrafts", circulated among Inuit communities in the early 1950s. Intended to provide inspiration to Inuit sculptors, this pamphlet depicted artifacts in the collection of the Canadian Museum of Civilization; many of the objects pictured, such as totem poles, were not germane to Inuit culture. James Archibald Houston, the author of Eskimo Handicrafts, was later sent to Baffin Island to collect specimens of Inuit sculpture. During his stay there, he introduced printmaking to the artists' repertoire. Figures of animals and hunters, family scenes, and mythological imagery became popular. By the 1960s, co-operatives were set up in most Inuit communities, and the Inuit art market began to flourish.
Crowfoot (c. 1830 – 25 April 1890) or Isapo-Muxika (Blackfoot Issapóómahksika, "Crow-big-foot") was a chief of the Siksika First Nation. His parents, Istowun-eh'pata (Packs a Knife) and Axkahp-say-pi (Attacked Towards Home), were Kainai. His brother Iron Shield became Chief Bull. He was only five when Istowun-eh'pata was killed during a raid on the Crow tribe, and a year later, his mother remarried to Akay-nehka-simi (Many Names) of the Siksika people. The young boy was adopted by the Siksika, who gave him the name Kyi-i-staah (Bear Ghost), until he could receive his father’s name, Istowun-eh’pata.
Though he was well respected for his bravery, Crowfoot refused to join the North-West Rebellion of 1885, believing it to be a lost cause. In 1886, Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald invited Crowfoot to Ottawa. Crowfoot went, as did Three Bulls and Red Crow, but soon fell ill and had to return from Ottawa. Because of his brave performance and injury during the battle, he was final given his adult name, Isapo-muxika, taken from a deceased relative.
Crowfoot was a warrior who fought in as many as 19 battles and sustained many injuries. Despite this, he tried to obtain peace instead of tribal warfare. When the Canadian Pacific Railway sought to build their mainline through Blackfoot territory, negotiations with Albert Lacombe convinced Crowfoot that it should be allowed.